Local nurses’ book champions human-centered leadership in health care

Approach means leaders must care for themselves so they can better meet their team’s needs

Lucy LeClerc is on a mission to transform health care leadership.“This is the perfect time for us to talk about leadership in nursing,” she said.Along with Kay Kennedy and Susan Campis, LeClerc wrote a book on the subject."Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare: Evolution of a Revolution" was published in paperback at the end of 2021.The authors asked nurses about leaders they would "follow to end of the Earth" and those who made them want to quit the profession

A faculty nurse at Kennesaw State University has embarked on a mission to transform health care leadership by helping those in charge navigate through a period of unprecedented change in the industry.

Along with her co-authors, Lucy Leclerc, assistant professor in the Wellstar School of Nursing, released “Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare: Evolution of a Revolution” in paperback at the end of 2021.

“This is the perfect time for us to talk about leadership in nursing,” Leclerc said. “We have to address nurses’ engagement with their work, perceived stress, work environment, retention and turnover, because we know those are the biggest priorities for executives as well as the cascading effect on patient care.”

Leclerc joined Kay Kennedy, a senior clinical instructor at Emory University, and Susan Campis, a nursing leadership consultant, in writing the book, which expands on research conducted over a period of two years that preceded and included a portion of the coronavirus pandemic.

For their research, the authors asked nurses about the attributes of leaders they would “follow to the ends of the Earth,” and those who made them consider leaving a role or the profession itself.

LeClerc and her co-authors recently answered a few questions about their book:

Who do you think will benefit the most from reading your book?

“‘Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare: Evolution of a Revolution” is intended for any leader in the health care industry,” LeClerc said. “This includes leaders in practice and in academia. Also, students in diverse health care leadership programs would benefit by being introduced to a human-centered approach early in their career.”

What compelled you to write this particular book at this time?

“Before the pandemic, in 2019, our team was concerned about the profession of nursing and particularly about the potential for burnout among health care leaders. As self-identified ‘servant’ leaders, we felt we had served ourselves into burnout,” Kennedy said. “Our experience prompted us to pursue qualitative research with health care leaders to better understand how a leader can not only survive but thrive within the complexity of the health care industry while leading their teams to achieve market-leading outcomes.

“We learned that the leader must prioritize ‘care for self’ and lead with a relational approach,” Kennedy continued. “Our book describes this journey — from our research to the development of the Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare theory, to the application of the theory in today’s health care environment. With this book, we aimed to provide leaders, from the bedside to the boardroom, with a new framework to view health care leadership, which offers a more caring, relational means to achieving the needed outcomes in health care.”

What is human-centered leadership and why is it so important? How does this approach benefit the organization and patients?

“Human-Centered Leadership in Healthcare is a contemporary, evidence-based leadership approach based in complexity and caring science,” Campis said. “It is unique to health care, which at its core is a human-centered and relational industry. The approach teaches leaders to care for themselves and to lead by awakening, connecting and upholding the team. The result of this relational leadership approach is a culture of excellence, trust and caring that delivers sustainable, positive outcomes for the team, the organization and the patient.”

One motto from your book is, “It starts with you, but it’s not about you.” What does that mean to you, and how can health care leaders exemplify that motto?

“One thing we found in our research is that there isn’t a leadership approach specific to health care. We found that strong nursing leadership thrives on self-care — nurse leaders advocating for their own self-care and encouraging their nurses to do the same. That self-care then extends to their teams and subsequently their patients,” LeClerc said.

“We’ve all heard the saying, ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup,’ yet many leaders in health care attempt to do this every day. Ironically, care for self has not traditionally been a priority for those working in the health care industry,” LeClerc continued. “This need to start with self recognizes the humanity in leaders and team members alike. As the leader practices care for self, they are then more able to emanate their leadership energy outward to awaken, connect and uphold team members.

“As leaders, we’ve learned to use mindfulness and reflective practice to start with ourselves and realize the impact self-care has on our ability to positively influence the culture in the organization and the outcomes for staff and patients,” she added.

What related advice would you give new nurses?

“Recognize a career in nursing and other health care professions to be a calling and a highly honorable profession. You are extremely valuable to the health care industry. Make sure you are treated as a valuable asset,” Kennedy said. “Take responsibility to treat yourself in the same way by making well-being a priority. Recognize the humanity in yourself, your team members and your patients. This is the one thing we all have in common. Care deeply for yourself, for your team and for your patients.”

What advice would you give to mid- or later-career nurses who are interested in advancing into leadership roles?

“Find a human-centered leader to follow who is willing to cultivate and develop you as a leader and who cares about you as a person. This will help you to grow into the leader you want to be, no matter what position you hold,” Campis advised.

In closing, LeClerc added: “If we each strive to become more ‘human-centered’ and practice the attributes of a ‘human-centered leader,’ our seemingly small efforts and caring actions can lead to big results in our current and future health care environment.”

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